Saturday, April 19, 2014

Asking for help is generous

I just want to say that giving people a chance to be in your life, especially when you are down and needy, can be a gift to them.

This week someone I barely knew committed suicide. We only had one interaction, but we had a lot of mutual friends, and I feel like I can see her story clearly because we shared some similar life experiences.

I am going to resist turning her story into a neat narrative or object lesson. She was in pain, that makes me sad. Maybe I know some of the reasons, maybe I don't. She didn't want to share that with me and that's her right. But I feel sad about all the barriers that made it difficult for her to talk about her pain. Maybe it felt like an imposition. A lot of people would have related to her story of pain though, whatever it was.

This week a person reached out to connect to me through my blog. She had questions and needed a community to support her, and luckily we were able to quickly connect her with that. She and I both have had bad things happen in our lives, but it makes those experiences feel meaningful that I can help even a little bit.

Every single person alive has asked for help before and will do it again. All you are doing, when you ask, is saying: "We are connected."

Connection is a gift that anyone can give.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recovery, Then and Now

Before, recovery meant focusing on all my mistakes. 

As a result of being homeschooled, indoctrinated and sheltered, I saw my poor life skills result in real world consequences. Starting from the day I left home, I lost friends, I misinterpreted situations and conversations constantly, I lost professional development opportunities and distanced potential allies and mentors, I despaired at the complete lack of romantic interest from anyone. Most people were too baffled by my all-consuming incompetence to care about whether I had good intentions (here are some of the gruesome details if you're curious).

When painful rejections happened, I carefully analyzed what I was doing wrong and tried to fix it. I learned to constantly monitor my performance, to slap my own wrist and adjust course. It was a way to survive, but in the process I started to be cruel to myself. I was constantly telling myself that my appearance and personality and feelings and insights were not good enough. At first this message was reinforced by rejections from people around me. Over time my relational and life skills improved, but my self-perception didn't.

Now, recovery means learning to be kind to myself. 

I have successfully learned how to make friends, be polite, play respectability politics when useful, even appear professional for short bursts of time. I have to say, I learned a lot of this with the help of Mean Sara. I'm not angry at her, she was doing her best. But it's time to retire Mean Sara. I've learned everything I could from her.

Mean Sara won't be happy with me until I'm perfect. I'm not perfect, and I never will be.

I will always mess things up. But I have survived some pretty colossal screw-ups, and I will survive my future screw-ups too. Luckily, my mistakes now are usually not so extreme and costly. My life is actually a lot less destroyed than it could be by growing up super-sheltered and controlled by fundamentalist ideas. I have a job I like, a caring spouse and friends. I am doing ok.

But I think kindness and patience is what I always deserved, even in the beginning when I was screwing everything up right and left.